In 2015, at the first edition of the Marketing Kingdom Cairo, Ania Jakubowski, then General Manager at Coca-Cola for Poland and the Baltics, was voted the event’s best speaker. She is back in Egypt this October to speak at the third edition of the Marketing Kingdom on the topic of marketing and leadership.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional journey. What has been the most defining part of your career?
My parents met in Canada as Polish post Second World War refugees. Our mother a nurse, our father an engineer. I am the youngest of four children. Travel was in my blood from birth, having moved as a family to India for several years as a result of a contract our father was commissioned for. The better part of my childhood, upbringing and studies however were back in Canada in the Toronto area. I was always passionate about sport, often you could find me in a gym or on a court instead of my ‘head in the books’ studying. That said, I graduated university with honors having studied business administration.
There have been a few significant moments in my career, however the most defining moment was very early when I took the opportunity to move to Poland for the first time with P&G. It may not sound like a bold move, however it was just post the fall of Communism, so things were still very unstable and unknown. I had just been promoted, so everything suggested that the future was bright in Canada. And then there was the fact of being a single woman venturing off, far away from family and friends.
What I always appreciated about that youthful bold decision to go to Poland was the fact that I knew deep down that I couldn’t really go wrong. I could always return to Canada, which in the end never happened. When I coach/mentor people today, I always encourage them to lean forward on decisions and commit to them. Worst case, they don’t work out and you make the next decision.
During your career at Coca-Cola and P&G you have worked in different roles and different markets and locations. What are the main challenges and benefits of this range of experience?
The things I have been particularly grateful for during my career are, firstly the fact that I have lived in six countries and worked in dozens more. I believe a key attribute of strong leadership is to have a learning mindset and be adaptable. None of us have an exclusivity on knowledge and change is constant. Experiencing different cultures and market situations continues to sharpen those skills.
Secondly, I have always tended to choose roles where the opportunity or challenge – depending on how you looked at it, required “fixing something” or “building something new”. The intrigue in these roles is that they kept me on the ‘edge’, a little out of my comfort zone and offered up the opportunity to have a high impact. In essence, ‘intrapreneurial roles’ within a corporate culture. The potential downside is that these roles did not always fit the traditional career path on traditional timings. Therefore at times in my career I didn’t have all the ‘boxes’ checked off in terms of traditional experience required for promotion – so it took me a little longer to get to certain levels then had I chosen more traditional roles. I don’t regret the choices and know that each one has made me a stronger leader, coach and mentor as a result.
Coca-Cola and P&G are ultimate examples of well-executed Marketing Strategies. What would make them unique in terms of employee engagement?
I have always said that an outstanding corporate culture could be created taking the strengths of P&G and Coke and combining them, one being more ‘right brain’ the other being more ‘left brain’. When it comes to HR approaches, what they have in common are a commitment to diversity among their workforce at all levels of the organization, their commitment to training and development particularly early in one’s career, and the role of HR itself being a “business partner” to the leadership.
At the Marketing Kingdom Cairo 3 you will be discussing the role of leadership in marketing. Can you give us a bit of insight on your topic?
I referenced earlier the idea of a leadership gap, this gap is permeating society; politically and economically. It is easier today to politically be polarizing and divide people to get noticed and garner votes rather than to unite them and find solutions to tough problems. In business, short term decisions often win out to please analysts and investors versus taking the tougher road for what is the right long term action for sustainable growth. I believe the leadership gap is rooted in the fact that the pendulum has swung to the point where “what” we achieve is more important than “how” we achieve it. I want to challenge this.
Environments where people are highly engaged are environments where the “how” is even more important than the “what”. Results count, but how you achieve those results is critical.
I will share my principles and practical examples of how I have had the fortune of creating engaged teams and organizations that consistently not only deliver, but often exceed expectations.
To meet Ania and 20 other marketing experts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, P&G and Rolls Royce Motor Cars, make sure you get your ticket today for the Marketing Kingdom Cairo 3 on the event’s official website.